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Big chill forecast for teachers' pay

The Education Secretary's wage proposals could tie salaries to the rate of inflation until 2008, reports William Stewart

Teachers' pay will remain frozen in line with expected inflation levels for more than three years, if the Government gets its way.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has proposed an annual 2 per cent pay rise for the vast majority of teachers covering September 2006 to August 2008, in a submission to the School Teachers' Review Body.

The award, based on a Bank of England target inflation rate, would give teachers on the first point of the main pay scale a slightly higher rise of 2.25 per cent, in an effort to attract more entrants to the profession.

The Government has justified its recommendation by pointing to increases many teachers receive through progression up the pay scales. Its submission says: "We need to guard against a pay settlement that cannot be contained in schools' budgets. The evidence leads us to conclude that there is no strong case for significant increases in teachers' basic pay."

Teaching unions have been unable to agree the deal and are making separate written submissions.

But as members of the Reward and Incentives Group (RIG) with the employers and Government, all four participating unions have put their names to evidence that forms the basis of Ms Kelly's case for an inflation-only rise.

The National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers are not RIG partners.

The freeze is likely to prove unpopular with a profession where thousands already face pay cuts over the next few years as management allowances are replaced with teaching and learning responsibility payments.

All four RIG unions have agreed with the Government and employers that improvements in teacher recruitment and retention pay are no longer key priorities.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the NASUWT will argue that salaries need to remain competitive, but are unlikely to name a figure. The Secondary Heads Association submission is likely to call for a pay rise for assistant heads to maintain a differential between them and the highest paid classroom teachers.

And the Professional Association of Teachers will say a 2 per cent rise will not keep pace with the real cost of living.

The employers agree with the Government's stress on the need for affordability. The joint RIG evidence says average classroom teacher pay has increased in real terms by 15 per cent since 1997. Improved conditions of service, through workforce reform and investment in school buildings, are helping to improve recruitment and retention, it says.

The current basic teachers pay award was also tied to projected inflation levels and delivered 2.5 per cent rises in April 2004 and April 2005, with the latter to be topped up to 3.25 per cent in September.

The deal can be reconsidered if inflation varies widely from expected levels and the Government has said it would be content to include this in the next award.

The NUT has called for all teachers to receive a 10 per cent or pound;2,500 rise, whichever is higher. The National Association of Head Teachers has asked the review body to widen the pay gap between classroom teachers and heads and assistant and deputy heads.

It wants pay rises of up to 44 per cent for heads, with the top of the salary range for the head of a large secondary increasing from pound;93,297 to Pounds 134,000 by September 2007 and the minimum salary for a small primary headship increasing from pound;38,000 to pound;55,000 over the same period.

The RIG evidence also pushes again for improved pay arrangements for secondary science and maths advanced teachers, which the review body rejected earlier in February.

The partners recommend sidelining the issue of localised pay as falling pupil numbers are expected to ease recruitment and retention problems.


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